By Reena Martins reenamart...@hotmail.com When I first arrived in Bombay in December 1992, the city was on the boil. The evening before my nephew Varun's christening, my family and I were stopped in our tracks en route to town. Thick dark smoke smothered the horizon over Bandra, which was to soon fall from grace as queen-of-the-suburbs. The train could not bridge the gap between a city divided against itself, and we had to retreat to a quieter and distant suburb.
During a brief lull in the madness a few days later, I moved to my aunt Dolcy's house in Mazagon. The city was under long hours of curfew and security forces in the lane below stood with guns at the ready, pointed up and about. The battle lines were drawn and the enemy was us. These men appeared to notice us watching them through a crack in the old window, and by a shot in the air sent us toppling off a high stool in the kitchen balcony one morning, as we dared to be seen a few minutes into curfew. A few months later, as if to lend credence to the never-say-die cliche, Bombay licked her wounds and whipped herself into shape -- though unable to disguise the grey of overnight aging. She stayed up all night and I cashed in on her insomnia, running along a turf still fractured in the name of religion or God, or both. I was holier than them, their sins were whiter than mine. But soon there came a point where I was propelled out of the epicenter of it all and was forced to look inward. Suddenly, I yearned for a city that pumped far less adrenaline, and whose arteries were clear and strong. I walked the streets looking for vestiges of a time before she had pawned her precious metal for the glare of glass and steel that cut her to the quick. The only place left to explore on her woefully pockmarked face was my own backyard. I clawed for my roots and purged myself of blood and gore, soaking in comforting stories of everyday folk -- Goan immigrants like me who had come in search of work, over half a century ago. I lapped up their stories of a Bombay that was uncomplicated and accepting -- when self-help books did not venture beyond The Art of Prolonging Life or How to Make a Living; and proprietorial medicines were advertised with tall claims and typos. Aurelium Miraculum, a 'purely innocent year' oil, could cure head noises, earache, discharge, perforations and make the 'drumbe' hear. Some of these folks had lived in Bandra of the Forties, when children ran around gardens with butterfly nets. In the quiet streets, a bus arrived every half hour or so, and processions -- even funeral ones -- were the order of the day. In summer, vendors went door-to-door with three-anna kairi hapus (raw Alphonso) mangoes, and boys swam in a pool that soldiers had enclosed at the foot of Mount Mary. Then came the city's in-house villain, its Chief Minister, Morarji Desai. A believer in urine therapy, Morarji was determined to rid the city of booze. In 1949, the Bombay Prohibition Act made it illegal to brew or drink alcohol. But as liquor shops were forced shut, in walked the Goan Aunty and her side kicks, upsetting Morarjibhai’s piss pot. She even became a fixture in many a Bollywood flick, and at her booze joint -- a spare room at home -- journalists, writers and poets like Dom Moraes, wrote and read out poetry over local hooch or ‘stuff’ smuggled out of Goa, served over chakna or masala peanuts. In a quiet corner, Mario Miranda drew car- toons and occasionally treated visitors like the American poet, Allan Ginsberg, and Duke Ellington’s orchestra to the Aunty’s nectar. On Newland Street or Nava Lane in Mazagon, 'pimple tree' Aunty -- nicknamed after the peepal tree outside her house -- awaited clients at the door in a low cut dress and arms akimbo, her young daughter in tow. Across the road was paapdi Aunty, her pretty Goan competitor. After the third drink at these homey bars, water turned into wine, and as a few old regulars would recount with relish, money for the grog was eased into the Aunty's ample bosom. Many an Aunty's client came from Goan kudds or clubs that flourished in middle and lower income Goan ghettoes like Dhobitalao, Byculla and Mazagon. In the Sixties, the Grand Club of Velim in Dhobitalao hosted about 75 residents at lunch, and over a hundred for dinner. Xitt-koddi-rice -- fat boiled rice smothered with coconut based fish curry -- came at 60 paise a plate. The kudd was the great leveler -- whatever your station in life, it had to be Rosary at 7 pm and lights out by 10. Late-comers like veteran chef, Urbano de Rego, had to tiptoe barefoot into the Grand Club of Diwar after the graveyard shift at the Taj where he apprenticed in the Seventies. A member summoned by the gong could be assured of a grilling by the kudd's five-member committee; by the fourth blunder he was simply shown the door. But whatever the offence, older members frowned upon unsavoury news leaks. In some clubs, they even made it a rule to find idle minds employment. Kuddwallahs or kuddkars were also politically active and mainly pro-Portuguese, a stance rewarded with instant deportation. In July 1954, VS de Pompeia Viegas, honorary secretary of Instituto Indo-Portuguese, was charged under the Foreigners Act, 1946, and dispatched to Goa by the 5.20 pm Poona Mail. That October, about a thousand copies of *O Anglo-Lusitano*, Bombay's Portuguese-English newspaper, were burnt outside the Mint, and the neighbouring Phaltan Road police recorded it as an act of mischief before laying the matter to rest. Until 1962, a year after Portugal was ousted from Goa, borders between Bombay and Goa had to be crossed with a passport and visa; travel routes were arduous and many hired guides to walk them through treacherous jungle terrain. One afternoon in 1954, as reported by the *Anglo*, a woman who tried to reach Goa via thick Kanara forests arrived at Anmod ghat -- it straddled Goa and Karnataka -- saw uniformed customs officials of the "Indian Union" waiting to pounce on "hapless" Goans. After her trunks, baskets and bedding were thoroughly searched, she was charged a duty of seven annas, while her 10-pound basket of potatoes bought in Belgaum at 20 annas was confiscated by customs and sold in the black market at ten times the price. Some Goan tiatrists -- Konkani stage actors and singers who addressed contemporary issues through tongue-in-cheek lyrics and dialogues that went from preachy to risque -- were also targetted by Indian immigration authorities at the border, and charged with being pro-Portuguese. The late Goan comedian, Souza Ferrao, was stopped with his drama troupe from crossing into India while returning from Goa in 1959. But back in Bombay, his tiatr, Camil Botler, touted as an instructional comedy, was presided over by the then Mayor, Dahyabhai V. Patel, at St Peter's Hall in Bandra. The proceeds from the tickets priced at Rs 7, Rs 4.25, Rs 2.10 and Re 1.50 went to a charitable dispensary. But tiatrists themselves were hardly people of means. In the monsoon, Antonette Mendes took the local train to shows carrying a swaddled suitcase of costumes, while her mentor and theatre director, the late Prem Kumar, did not hesitate to roll on stage in his much-loved whites to demonstrate an act. Maria Mohana, or Mona, the first Goan and possibly Indian woman to be invited to an Italian film festival in 1954, also started out as a tiatrist. She flew to Rome that summer by Trans World Airlines (TWA) to star in the black-and-white, *Il pescatore di Posillipo* (The Fisherman of Posillipo), directed by Giorgio Capitani. This stately beauty was the eldest sister of Ophelia, the late tragedienne of the Konkani stage. Locals coming from faraway Goan villages carrying Petromaxes to watch her tiatrs, would call out to each other in excitement, "Mona ailem, Mona ailem!" (Mona has arrived!) recalled Ophelia. But Goan musicians -- they formed the backbone of Bollywood's music industry for the better part of the 20th century -- got none of their due recognition. Frank Fernand, the yesteryears Bollywood musician and composer who produced classics like *Amchem Noxib* (Our Fate) and *Nirmonn* (Destiny), beamed these monochrome tragedies at his children's birthday parties through a home projector, but "we didn't know dad was a well known musician and filmmaker," says his unassuming son Max. "Music directors took credit and called themselves composers, when the real work was done by Goan musicians," rued Anthony Gonsalves, whose name was immortalized by Manmohan Desai's *Amar Akbar Anthony*. To protect their interests, a group of Anthony's contemporaries formed the Senior Musicians Association and fixed their wages -- Rs 50-100 -- for an eight-hour shift. On October 15, 1943, 16-year-old Anthony went to audition with the late music director Naushad Ali at Kardar Production Studio in Bombay's erstwhile mill district, Parel. He was among the few Goan musicians who could score music, and Naushad was impressed. He asked Anthony his salary expectations, unprepared for a cheeky response. "Company mein jitna dum hai (Whatever the company can afford)." "He (Naushad) earned Rs 700 a month and had I to put up my price, what would have remained for him?" asked Anthony, a child prodigy who'd cut his teeth on Gregorian music -- he was choir master at Anjo Custodio (Guardian Angel) Church at 12 -- and in later years played raag gussa, ragini and putra with equal ease. After an eight hour shift at the studio, he gave violin lessons and scored music till the wee hours. Two of his students, RD Burman and Pyarelal Ramprasad Sharma (of the Laxmikant-Pyarelal duo), became Bollywood music biggies; and a young Dilip Kumar, whom he taught the violin for his role as a wandering musician in his debut movie, *Jwar Bhatta*, went on to achieve legendary status. In 1965, Anthony wandered off to New York to avail of a travel grant from Syracuse University. A few decades later he returned to Goa, never to perform again. Like for so many unsung Bomoicars -- Bombay Goans -- who had made Bollywood dance, Bombay struck a jarring note.... -- This is an extract from *Bomoicar: Stories of Bombay Goans, 1920-1980*, edited and compiled by Reena Martins. Pp 160. May 2014. Pb. Rs 200 in Goa. ISBN 978-93-80739-42-7 Goa,1556 goa1...@gmail.com